Should you get your knickers in a twist over algorithms?

Algorithms (and why you shouldn’t get your knickers in a twist about them)
Algorithms (and why you shouldn’t get your knickers in a twist about them)

By: Liz Azyan

Are ever-changing online platform algorithms cramping your marketing style? Here’s why you should still focus more on your message than anything else.

As the saying goes, the only thing in this world that’s permanent is change — and that statement is about as true as it gets, as far as the world of online marketing is concerned.

The digital landscape has become synonymous with upgrading and updating.  From company websites redesigning and relaunching their pages to antivirus software getting constant updates to fight the steady arrival of new viruses and malware, one can say that the Internet not only allows change — it makes it a necessity.

Algorithms, of course, are no different.

In order for search engines and social media platforms to determine the kind and quality of content that would appear on their search results and news feeds, respectively, they are powered by algorithms.

In essence, an algorithm is a ranking system of sorts, determined by preset standards of quality and relevance in order to display the best results possible.

It is because of these algorithms that online marketing has become a tight competition that forces marketers to avoid getting complacent and get them used to thinking of brand new and effective strategies as they go along.

Now, algorithms don’t stay the same. Google, for instance, reportedly changes up its algorithm once every two weeks. Some even say that they change the algorithm 500 to 600 times a year! We can never really know for sure, since the search engine giant doesn’t really share this kind of information.

It is apparent, though, that these algorithm changes actually have a significant impact on campaigns and brand prominence in general. Another example: Facebook has been known to mix it up as well, and some say that they even do it every couple of weeks!

Now, this constant changing of online algorithms does have its purpose.  Mainly, this gives smaller businesses a chance to shine with some really well-written content (instead of just letting those who are already at the top to gain even more recognition).

Unfortunately, due to the tight and competitive nature of marketing as a whole, the knowledge that algorithms exist, change, and (in many ways) determine the success of a campaign has led to some marketers treating their strategies as less of a way to get their message across to the right target audience and more of a quest to always be the first item on the search engine results page, or the most prominent post on everyone’s news feeds.

This focus on algorithms leaves marketers scratching their heads about what to post.  Would an image get more engagement? Would posting this funny video get my page more attention? What if it’s just text – would it get passed around or ignored?

Another area that isn’t so clear here is how your online behavior affects your ranking. Do you hit the Like button on your own posts? Do you hop on the trending hashtags and hope that the increased exposure will get your brand the attention you feel it needs?

Whether it’s coming up with ways to make your content more visible on your target market’s timelines, figuring out how to get your YouTube videos suggested alongside an influencer’s own video content, or getting your podcast trending on iTunes, more and more marketers are finding reasons to obsess over algorithms.

And I don’t think that this is appropriate or healthy for your brand at all.

Content is well and truly still King

There’s a reason why we say that content is king, and that’s not just because we need more content to rank higher on search engine results. The content that you publish has to reflect the heart and soul of your brand — and it should not center on algorithms alone.

Sure, I understand that there are so many questions that we, as marketers, need to be aware of and to understand. After all, our craft is an investment, and we’re in this business to get our target market’s attention, plain and simple.

Sometimes, though, you have to stop and think: What truly matters, at the end of the day? What should we really be focusing on?

Think about it…

  • As a content creator, how would you feel about being severely limited in what you say or plan, just so long as you meet the supposed requirements of an algorithm to put you on Google’s radar?
  • As a marketer, how would you feel about sacrificing your company’s unique branding and message, just to perpetually chase after that magical ranking system you want to be on top of?
  • As a business owner, how would you feel about having to throw your understanding of your audience — your intuition and analysis of the kind of content that would really resonate with your present and potential customers — out the window, in favor of just resorting to content generating tactics that you wouldn’t normally resort to, just to outrank everyone else?

What you should do

Well, here’s what I think.

I think we should strike a balance when it comes to creating content. I think we should consider algorithms AND the things that matter when we craft our message.

Imagine finding the love of your life and deciding that you want to do everything you can, just to get their attention. Your strategy is to give gifts, spend a lot of money, be around the person all the time, and other similar tactics. Sure, the person will notice you, all right, and they would probably etch you in their memory. This isn’t a guarantee, though, that they will fall in love with you, or at the very least reciprocate your feelings.

See, it’s one thing to know what a person likes or dislikes — but it’s another (and equally important) thing entirely to make them like and know you, too. Your goal shouldn’t just be to say the right words; it should be to give them a reason to feel the same warmth you feel about them.

Believe in your message

Going back to digital marketing — remember this:In its essence, a powerful message does not have to rely on imagery to be effective.  If the core of your brand is something that your target audience can appreciate and embrace — if you espouse the same values your target market does — you do not have to put all your eggs into

Besides, search engines and social media platforms rarely share information about their algorithm changes, and with good reason. These measures are in place to prevent people from gaming the system, not to encourage it.

When you come across the nth list of the week about supposed algorithm-based “best practices” for social media platforms and search engines, take them with a pinch of salt. Don’t let your marketing revolve around an algorithm-based strategy. Remember that, at the end of the day, that’s exactly what it is: A strategy, and nothing more.

Instead, focus on tailoring just the right message to capture the essence of your brand. That’s not to say that you should junk the idea of ranking permanently; all I’m trying to tell you is that you should not let it dictate the way you craft content or deliver your messages.

Focus too much on style instead of substance, and your brand will end up losing what makes it so distinct and special.

And no one, customer or otherwise, can fall in love with an empty shell.

Now that you’ve read my thoughts on the matter, allow me to help you take your messaging to the next level. Learn how you can devise and prepare an excellent and effective range of content for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other popular social media sites. Check out my collaboration with Skillshare, How to Create Engaging Social Media Content, to learn how you can skillfully craft high-quality content to get you a better ROI.

Algorithms (and why you shouldn’t get your knickers in a twist about them)

Author: Liz Azyan

Liz Azyan is the CEO & Founder of Digital Matchbox. Digital Matchbox is a
boutique digital agency based in London, UK that can help you or your
business spark your online presence.

Why you shouldn’t be fooled by entrepreneur “success stories”

Why you shouldn’t be fooled by entrepreneur “success stories”
Why you shouldn’t be fooled by entrepreneur “success stories”

Hearing about success stories of entrepreneurs can be inspiring — but they can also throw you off-course. Here’s how to avoid that:

Every once in a while, we hear an inspiring rags-to-riches story of an entrepreneur who rose from the bottom all the way to seemingly unreachable heights. Sometimes, it’s a young business tycoon-in-the-making who came up with a million-dollar idea and ran with it. Other times, it’s a luckless entrepreneur who gave the art of business one last shot, and was rewarded with success they never imagined.

On other occasions still, it’s a longtime businessman who implemented one small change in their business operations — a change that would prove to be remarkably effective in taking their enterprise to the top.

These stories are meant to motivate us and to inspire us. “If this entrepreneur can, so can I!” More often than not, though, they also serve as unwelcome, self-imposed warning signs — or worse, expiration dates. After all, who wouldn’t feel the pressure to do ridiculously well at business upon hearing the success story of a startup led by a newbie half your age?

Who wouldn’t be persuaded to follow in the footsteps of that one successful entrepreneur by making the same organizational changes that they did, regardless of whether or not said changes would be a good fit for your business? And who wouldn’t be inspired to keep soldiering on after hearing about that one businessman who never gave up — even when things are clearly going south for you, and quickly getting out of hand?

The truth about entrepreneur “success stories”

Here’s the problem. Those stories that talk about people who supposedly succeed in their business ventures within such a short period of time? They hardly ever tell the whole story.

If you think success REALLY came that easily to anyone who “tried hard enough” — if you honestly believe that entrepreneurs who claim to be enjoying 7-figure profits on a monthly basis are giving you all the dirty details of their path to success — you are terribly mistaken.

More often than not, it wasn’t just their determination or resourcefulness that allowed them to achieve the success they enjoyed. In some cases, it’s knowing the right people and reaching out to the right benefactors. Sometimes, these success stories are about entrepreneurs who were either already successful in some other area of life, or had the financial advantage or sufficient clout to charge into business with the bravado of an unapologetic daredevil.

And therein lies the danger of putting too much faith into these entrepreneur “success stories”: They unintentionally become deadlines — and unhealthy benchmarks for success.

When you start comparing yourself to others who, due to a combination of factors that simply cannot be anticipated, have met a significant degree of success at an impressive stage in the game, you begin doubting yourself when you fall short of goals that may be a bit too challenging and unfair for yourself to begin with.

You might end up quitting that business idea after just 3 months because you weren’t seeing the returns you were expecting, or stubbornly hold on to a terrible business idea, hemorrhaging your finances until you realize that you should have let go and tried something else early on.

Why the only success story that should matter is yours

Now, I’m not saying that all of these success stories are a load of baloney. Far from it, in fact — I do believe that these can inspire us and point us in the right direction. However, when you start closely patterning your business operations and style to whichever instant success story you choose, you are putting your enterprise at risk. Instead of focusing on a strategy that would work for your brand, you’re too busy trying to ape someone else’s.

I recognize that it’s a stretch to tell you not to compare yourself to others. I think being competitive is ingrained in our DNA. In times of doubt, however, here are a few things you should remember to stay on track and never lose sight of the goal.

1. Go at your own pace.

Just because it worked for another entrepreneur doesn’t mean it would for you, too. There is no be-all, end-all approach to business. It takes considerable skill and patience to meet success. If it happens for you at a shorter time, great! If it doesn’t, well, don’t give up just yet. No one’s chasing after you.

2. Identify opportunities — and dead ends, too.

In the same way that we have to be sharp and attentive enough to identify opportunities as they come, we also need to be able to tell if what we’re doing is no longer worth it. There’s no use in pushing for a business idea if you know it’s just not going to work.

Things are not going to magically be all right, just because of your grit and gumption. Sometimes, a bad idea is a bad idea. Being a good entrepreneur means knowing how to distinguish the good from the bad.

3. Learn not just from success stories, but also from cautionary tales.

The world of business is full of just as many stories of failure as — or perhaps, even more than — tales of success. You would do well as an entrepreneur to learn from these experiences.

Don’t blindly accept every seemingly amazing business story at face value.  Instead, learn as much as you can from others’ ups and downs, so that you can avoid the mistakes they made.

4. Accept your limitations — and find a way to work around them.

Everyone has different resources, connections, and capabilities. Not everyone has access to the same tools and advantages as a lucky handful of so-called “instant success stories.” The sooner you come to terms with the fact that there are just some things you can’t do with your business, the easier it will be for you to figure out ways to compensate.

That said, it’s time for you to start crafting your own entrepreneur “success story.” And to do that, you need to learn how to maximize the resources you have on hand. Start with your social media accounts — specifically, the content you publish on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. Check out my collaboration with Skillshare, How to Create Engaging Social Media Content, to learn how you can skillfully craft high-quality content to get you a better ROI.

Why you shouldn’t be fooled by entrepreneur “success stories”

Author: Liz Azyan

Liz Azyan is the CEO & Founder of Digital Matchbox. Digital Matchbox is a boutique digital agency based in London, UK that can help you or your business spark your online presence.

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